Student arrested for posting video on YouTube of cops accepting bribes
Last week, Indonesian police on the small island of Ternate, North Maluku, created an outrage on social media when they arrested a university student named Adlun Fiqri Sigoro. The student committed the “crime of slander” after uploading a YouTube video that allegedly showed cops accepting bribes in public from traffic violators.
The video went viral and North Maluku police chief Zulkarnain confirmed the Ternate district police has charged Adlun with defamation, a violation of Indonesia’s notorious Information Technology and Electronics Transactions (ITE) Law.
The video, which Adlun uploaded a week ago on Saturday, September 26, was about one minute long and candidly portrayed traffic cops taking petty cash from motorists.
On Friday, October 2, the police refused to free the student. The department’s chief of crime Samsudin Lossen said he was unafraid of facing the National Police Commission and the National Commission on Human Rights, as Adlun had confessed to the crime of defamation.
Police freed Adlun later in the week, following social media campaigns that snowballed into mainstream media coverage. If found guilty, Adlun could have faced up to 6 years in prison. Chief Zulkarnain told local media that the video posted by Adlun was not what it seems.
The general is quoted as saying the traffic police officers were simply taking fines for safekeeping and were not taking bribes. Zulkarnain claims the funds collected were to be deposited appropriately as traffic fines, although collecting cash in public is not an orthodox police procedure. Currently, the video is nowhere to be found on YouTube.
Saved by social media
Some argue the police conceded after receiving heat from social media activist groups and mainstream media. Following the arrest, people across Indonesia took to Twitter and Facebook, condemning the district police via campaigns with hashtags like #SaveAdlunFiqri and #KitaAdalahAdlunFiqri (We Are Adlun Fiqri).
The nation’s Institute for Criminal Justice Reform participated in the social campaigns as did the Alliance for Independent Journalists. With such pressure, it’s conceivable the police dropped charges out of fear of creating a political martyr.
This is not the first time Indonesia’s controversial ITE law has been spotlighted by media and free speech advocates.
In 2014, the issue was the center of public scrutiny after Benny Handoko was arrested, found guilty, and sentenced to one year probation after posting supposedly libelous comments against a politician in Indonesia.
In June 2014, a 29-year-old Yogyakarta woman named Handayani was accused of breaking the law after writing a Facebook post berating the management of a local jewelry business.
The case went on for several months, and in September authorities threw Handayani in jail for days before her trial. She was found innocent in the end, however, and managed to walk away with only personal anguish and the emotional scars of wrongful imprisonment.
Florence Sihombing called Yogyakarta people “poor, stupid, and uncultured” on Path, a private social network, late last year. Somebody took a screenshot of it and shared the status on public social media Facebook and Twitter.
After a wave of cyber bullying toward Sihombing, a few local NGOs took the case to the police, and filed a lawsuit against her under the ITE law.
At around the same time, Ridwan Kamil, the mayor of Bandung, filed a lawsuit against Twitter user Kemal Septiandi, alleging the user made childish, nasty references toward Kamil and the city of Bandung at large, using words like “fuck” and “whore.”
The list of documented offenses in Indonesia goes on. Activists have kept an eye on the regulation, and carried out several campaigns for the government to amend the rule.
Today, these efforts have been to no avail.
Problems with the law
Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression (SafeNet Voice), a movement that promotes freedom of speech in the region, has been following the issue of Indonesia’s ITE regulation. The organization believes the law has several dangerous loopholes that need to be fixed.
The first is that it’s unclear if violations of the ITE regulation should fall under civil or criminal law. Essentially, this means the government needs to draw a clearer line in the sand.
The second is that law enforcers may not fully understand best practices in handling online defamation cases.
It’s extremely easy to report someone to the police if they piss you off in Indonesia, and local authorities have the prerogative to hold someone for up to 20 days after a lawsuit is filed. For this reason, local law enforcers need to be certain the case truly makes sense before tossing someone behind bars.
The third is that the current punishments are in no way appropriate for online defamation offenders. They are extreme.
Those found guilty under the criminal code may be sentenced up 12 years in prison and/or fines up to Rp 12 billion (US$890,000). The ITE law sentences people up to six years of imprisonment and/or fines of up to IDR 1 billion (US$75,000).
Since the inception of Indonesia’s ITE law, more than 50 cases have come to light.
Around the world, it’s no secret that a lot of smack gets talked online, but can we really put a muzzle on every Indonesian with a social media account? SafeNet Voice hopes the new ICT ministry under president Joko Widodo can make a change. – Rappler.com
This article was first published in Tech in Asia, the go-to media platform for Asia’s tech community.